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Guided Tour of the Accademia Gallery

Interested in knowing more about the most famous sculpture in the world?

Then you have to go to the Accademia Gallery in Florence to see Michelangelo's David! The original marble statue weighing over 5 tons sits in its spot of honor inside the museum under a rounded sky-lit dome. The David in Piazza della Signoria is just a copy (even if a good one, it is quite dirty) so you need to go visit the original inside the museum. You can learn lots of interesting information on David and Michelangelo with a guided tour of the Accademia Gallery.

Why book this guided tour?

  • it is fun!
  • groups are small
  • skip the lines access

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While the Accademia museum is small and you can most certainly just book an entrance ticket ahead of time to skip the lines and visit on your own, I highly recommend you visit the museum with an expert art history guide! I cannot emphasize enough what an interesting and fun experience it is to visit a top museum in Florence such as the Accademia or Uffizi with a private guide. Why? Because a visit to either with an expert that knows the ins and outs of the museum, the masterpieces housed within and their history is able to make the visit to the museum FUN! No more going from room to room in search of the famous works of art, missing important ones if you didn't know to look for them, doing research in guide books about why they are important and getting tired from art overload. Don't consider yourself an "art" person or a "history buff"? No matter, you will end your visit happy to have learned interesting facts and enjoying the experience.

This is how I felt again on my last visit to the Accademia with a guided visit with Florence-Tickets.com. Despite having visited many times in the past, our art expert guide Lia Bernini, made the museum come alive. She met us in front of the museum on a late busy morning in July. We immediately enjoyed a plus of our small group as we quickly skipped the long lines outside as we were allowed priority entrance. 

It was a busy morning with lots of visitors inside, but taking advantage of our small group, Lia led us first into the Museum of Musical Instruments. Most don't know about this small adjoining museum, Lia tells us, and she considers it a hidden gem that we want to make sure you know about! The Grand Ducal collection of over 50 instruments includes harpsichords, string and wind instruments, including the last surviving tenor viola of the Medici Quintet made by Antonio Stradivari, dated 1690, today conserved in its original splendor. The other major find: the first piano invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori at the court of the Medici.

After that quick detour, we went back into the first large hall, known as the Hall of the Colossus (you can find out where the name comes from on your tour), then onto the main Hall of the Prisoners where you can spot the Tribune and David! We, of course, learn more on the Slaves or Prisoners before arriving at David, spend some time there before heading to the adjoining Gipsoteca Bartolini (which I truly enjoy exploring), the 13th century art rooms and the last rooms on the first floor. We can return to anything we might want to see again, including the David, as the tour ends. Overall we visit all of the main areas of the museum, getting a sense of the museum's history and its collections without feeling overwhelmed. The tour takes about an hour and a half, the perfect amount to see the highlights inside the museum.

Accademia Guided Tour At-a-Glance

  • about 1.5 hour, every Wednesday and Sunday
  • skip-the-line access
  • expert art guide in English
  • see and learn about Michelangelo's David, Slaves and other works
  • stay in museum as long as you want after the tour ends

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Why I recommend this guided tour

I really liked several aspects, I'll highlight the main ones for which I'd recommend this tour over others.

1. The small size of the group

Of course this depends on the season, but the maximum size of the group is 25. While we were just 2 on our group, it can happen to you too that you essentially end up with a private tour depending on the season you visit. The tour runs twice a week, in English, every Wednesday and Sunday. Any group over 10 people will get the "whisper" system which means you get headphones and can hear the guide even if the group has more people and you can't be close to the guide. You will receive personal attention from your guide since you will be able to ask any questions that come up while visiting the museum.

2. It was fun!

I enjoyed the tour immensely, even if I already know many bits of information about some of the works and the museum. Our guide was fantastic in offering a good mix of details and general information which helps connect the dots of information you might already know. I loved the information she shared about how sculptures were made in the Renaissance era workshops: Lia explained while we were looking at the gesso of Giambologna's Rape of the Sabines how his own workshop worked. The master would do the drawings and work on the small wax or terracotta model to bring it to life. From there, an actual size gesso was then created. Here the master would mold the gesso all around the structure (made with wood or metal internally) with all the details of the finished project, so it was not just a "rough" draft of the ultimate statue. Once the gesso was done, the job of actually chipping away the marble (very hard stone) away from a block was left to many of the workshop's students and assistants. In essence, while the master often did the finishing touches on the marble statue, the original gesso of Giambologna's Rape of the Sabines has more of the master's hand on it than the marble statue standing under the Loggia dei Lanzi in the Piazza della Signoria.

Of course, once you pass on to the next room - the Hall of Prisoners - you will learn that Michelangelo did nothing of the sort. He might have created small models of his ideas, but then he never created gesso versions of his work, and he didn't have a workshop full of students. He went straight to chipping marble off the stone block all on his own, as he believed the figure existed within the marble and he was just "liberating" it. You can most definitely see this as you admire his unfinished "Slaves" or "Prisoners". All of this information while standing and watching the works makes the information easy to digest and fun to learn about.

I'll confess that I also don't know much about musical instruments, so the entire stop in the musical instruments museum was a learning experience. If you actually know about violins, Stradivari, pianos and other instruments, then you will highly enjoy stopping there to see the instruments!

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3. The pace was perfect

While the museum was packed at the day of our visit, we still felt we had personal attention the entire time. We got information on what was in front of us, and never felt like we were being taken across the museum from work to work to keep up with a time-line. At the same time, we got to see more of the museum than what people normally do: we spent time in all of the rooms (I have to add there was no temporary exhibition at the time, so there were no extra rooms to visit) of the museum and better understood why there is such an eclectic mix, from early Renaissance to Baroque to neo-classical and medieval works! :) Most people, without a guide, will just walk into the museum to see David, never learning any of his history, then walk out, on a mission to "cross out" sights to see in Florence. Even with limited time, this tour of just an hour and a half can be fit into your schedule to make sure you get the most out of your time at the Accademia.

Back to the David: we got to spend a good 15 minutes in front of the David to admire all of his grandeur and learn about his history, from the idea of the project to his completion to his ending up in this museum. Did you know that Michelangelo was just 26 when he sculpted this marvelous masterpiece?

While he stood in Piazza della Signoria (in the same spot where you see the copy today), he was NOT originally meant for that spot. He was supposed to be a small statue high up along a side of the Duomo, where he likely would have been ignored (have you noticed all of the statues high up on the Duomo? If not, go take a look and you might be surprised). The magnificence of the statue was recognized from the start so essentially the city "took" the statue to display it to the public, since at the time Florence was a Republic and the Medici were in exile.

Also, this part of the museum also did not exist back in the late 1860s, but it was designed and created just to house the David by Emilio de Fabris, the same architect that designed the Duomo facade, once it was finally decided he had to be moved indoors to keep him safe.

Ready to learn more? I've just hinted at some of the information we got from our expert guide. Have a fun visit to the Accademia Gallery by visiting with your own tour guide!

Book your tour today »

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Author: Lourdes Flores

I'm from California but have called Florence my home for over a decade. I love to explore Italy; it is a lot of fun to try to see everything like I'm seeing it for the first time, keeping you, our readers, always in mind. I enjoy sharing what I know and helping others as they make their travel plans for Tuscany through our Forum. If you have itinerary-related questions, please post them there!



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